March 9, 2015

It Happened on March 9th

The Murder of Rizzio, 1787 painting by John Opie
Murder of David Rizzio, 1566
David Rizzio was the private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, and some said he was her lover. He started out as a musician and singer, and, having won the Queen's favor, became her secretary. Many in the court (probably including the Queen's husband, Lord Darnley) felt that he had too much influence on the Queen.
On the evening of March 9, 1566, rebels burst into the Queen's supper chamber and demanded that Rizzio be turned over to them. Queen Mary attempted to defend him, but was forced to give him up. Rizzio was stabbed 56 times, then thrown down the staircase and stripped of his jewels and finery. He was buried less than two hours later. 

It is generally thought that the attack on Rizzio was an attempt to destabilize the reign of Mary, who was a popular queen. Some think that Queen Elizabeth I of England may have even had a hand in it -- it appears, at any rate, that she provided sanctuary for the killers after the event. 

Bild Lilli looked a lot like Barbie

Barbie's Birthday, 1959
Happy Birthday, Barbie! America's favorite doll is 52 years old today. Barbie was introduced at the American International Toy Fair on March 9, 1959. During her first year of production, Barbie sold about 350,000 units. The original Barbie wore a black and white striped swimsuit and wore her hair in a ponytail on the top of her head -- available in either blonde or brunette. 

What you may not know about Barbie is that she wasn't exactly an original American creation. The doll was based on a German fashion doll called Bild Lilli, who in turn was based on a popular comic strip of the time. Lilli was a working girl, and a little bit of a gold-digger. The Lilli doll had originally been marketed to adults. 

Gold Discovered in California, 1842
Mind you, this was seven years before the 49-ers flocked to California for the real Gold Rush. The gold in this case was discovered by Francisco Lopez. The story goes that he had been napping underneath an oak tree when he dreamed he was floating in gold. Upon waking, he pulled a wild onion and found flakes of gold adhering to its roots. Since Lopez had studied mineralogy, it's likely that he'd already been looking for gold for some time, but the dream makes a nice story. 

This was the first documented discovery of gold in California. It wasn't considered a startling find, however -- only about 2,000 people came to California to search for gold. One of the people who was impressed by the discovery, however, was John Sutter, who witnessed the mining operation and decided to look for gold near his own home. The rest, as they say, was history. 

Old Grampa Walton was quite an activist in his day
Will Geer's Birthday, 1902
Most of us remember him best as Grandpa Zebulon Walton from the 70's TV series, The Waltons. Geer actually had a long and varied career, beginning with early gigs in tent shows and on river boats, and continuing through stage, film, and television. 

Will Geer had a full life in many other areas, as well. He was active in the Communist Party, labor politics, and the early days of gay activism. In the 1930's he toured government work camps, along with such musical icons as Woody Guthrie and Burl Ives. In the 50's he was blacklisted for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In his early life he had been interested in horticulture, and obtained a Masters Degree in Botany, which he put to good use later in life through his hobby of attempting to raise all the plants that had been mentioned in the works of Shakespeare.

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